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C.C. Hogan

Another Day In Writer Land

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Turn that Damned Alarm Thing Off!

09:26

What? You think 09:26 is too late to get up? I have nowhere to drive to, I do not have a dog that needs walking (or one that doesn't), the water in the tank won't go cold for hours yet and my bladder is behaving. 

So just because you commuter-types have to get out of bed at six thirty-eight in the morning to go sit on a cold, grubby railway carriage, does not mean the rest of us have to. You may wish to examine the holier-than-thou attitude as possibly defensive bordering on the delusional. 

Of course, the writing day has already started and has been staggering around with little purpose for the last couple of hours as I slowly rise from comotosia. The problem for most writers who are mid-book is that they are, by this stage, lost in the world of their own invention and reality has to come crashing through the roof to make much in the way of impact. In my semi-conscious, caffeine reduced state, I have been busy solving all kinds of issues. Can't remember any of the solutions at this stage, but it was worth a go.

By a quarter to ten, I have showered, boiled the kettle and am now staring at a half-woken PC with its three monitors while waiting to see what happens first; it finishes loading or the coffee stews long enough to wake the dead.

10:30

Time to think about lunch. No, I'm joking. 

My current day is not completely typical and involves less hour-to-hour writing than usual. A few weeks ago I found myself stuck on book three of series two of Dirt. This was not writer's block, but rather a fear that I had built up such a writing momentum that I was neglecting certain important aspects; mainly, allowing my characters to breathe. So I decided to take a sort of half-a-break, send the dragons off to the beach and concentrate on other bits and pieces.

Hit the Photoshop button!

Johnson Farthing Dec 2015Penniless writer me, like many others. but I do fork out a monthly fee for the Adobe photography package. I used to have the entire Creative Cloud package, but I really could not justify the price and Photoshop is my main tool when it comes to graphics. I have created for myself two headaches. Firstly, I cannot afford a proper cover designer. No, I really can't, before one of you says, "oh, you can afford me - it is an investment!" So, I have to do my own covers. Secondly, I really do not want to go the stock  image route. To be honest, there is nothing in stock land which helps me much and there is always the risk that someone else uses the same photo. I won't say who, but I saw a book the other day which had the same topless gent on the cover as another book I saw a month before.

My current covers for Dirt are functional, but nothing more, and reading a marketing advice book from the owner of Smashwords, has persuaded me what I knew already - I need new, harder-hitting covers.

Interestingly, this is where a couple of my reviewers have come in handy. Although they have never commented on the covers in their reviews, they warned me that there is something about the current style which is very definitely "Dirt."  So do not wander too far away from the concept and feel.

I agree. My painting skills have improved in the year since I did the old covers, so the first thing I have done is to repaint Mr Johnson Farthing. I have used the same guide sketch that I made a year ago, but just did him better!

12:00

God! Dragons are hard.

I have a backache, headache and my eyes are swimming in the liquid mush of my sockets. Look, I am no artist, so I cheat - sort of. When I draw something I make up a collage from bits I find on the internet - a nose from here, hand shape from there, a crossed leg somewhere else, and so on. I don't just grab an image and paint over it, I am not that much of a thief, but I need guides to make sure things work, and then sketch an original from my rough.

Dragons, however, are not as common as a cow and there are no original references. I have three sources, therefore. Raptors like eagles and other hawks, an Allosaurus (better shape than a T-Rex) and, oddly, a komodo dragon; they have quite kindly faces. Even so, it does not answer everything. What the hell does a dragon look like from underneath?

Lunch

Writers should not stop properly for lunch. It is a religious law, somewhere, I think. It says that we can only be a writer if we are properly frazzled, so that means no regular rest breaks and too much alcohol late at night. 

I live this idea, I really do. You can tell by the amount of breadcrumbs and sticky patches on my keyboard and mouse. I do keep my big art pad clean, however. I bought it fifteen years ago and the latest version of it is so out of my current price range that I cannot begin to think about breaking my old one. 

BBC News

Apparently UKIP supporters in the United Kingdom are broadly satisfied with Nigel Farage. How nice for them; they deserve each other.

12:38

Yeah, short lunch! Well, to be honest, I only stopped long enough to make a pastrami and camembert sandwich and grab a can of coke, which I have just spilt.

Eating and working concurrently is not always the best combination of events, but I find it strangely comforting. As a writer I try to have an affinity with my characters, whether I am writing the story, doing some planning or drawing. Eating lunch while working is like sharing the experience with them and we become a sort of team with one brain. Pity it is the weakest link that has the brain bit. Oh, well.

14:30

I am making a random list. I do this from time to time just to expand the possibilities of my life/world/dinner (delete as necessary.)

Dirt, for the uninitiated, is a saga that takes place over a thousand years (unless I decide to expand it at some time, of course). It is divided into three chunks five hundred years apart. I haven't worked out what to call the chunks at the moment. I cannot use the word series because a chunk can include a series. Thus, in the first chunk, there is series one (three books), a shorter book called Hope which is the sequel to series one and is also a prelude to series two, which is part of the second chunk. Following me? Then there is a short story called Yona and the Beast which is set during the first chunk time period, but can be read without reading the other books.

So, each chunk could have several different stories set during it's time period, or associated to the time period. Sorry, this is getting complicated and a little off the point.  

Back on the path I started out on, I am making a list of possible books, stories or anything else that I might want to write at some time.  At the moment the list looks like:

  • The young Be-Eirol
  • Barkles as a young man
  • The Northern Wars (set before the main books in the first chunk)
  • Death of a Kingdom - a civil war story
  • Dragon Tales - myths from dragon history
  • Silvi Dawfoot - the ship's mate.
  • Brothers and sisters (that is a second chunk thing, but maybe a third chunk outing)

Make any sense? No, to me neither.

14:86

I really need to learn how to read time correctly.

Time is causing me a headache. Ancient civilisations tended to change time and date systems regularly much to the consternation of locals. I wanted to reflect that it in the Dirt books and at the time they are set, most people tend to refer to things as being "recent," or "before I was born," but never mention year names or numbers because it is a mess. Actually worked quite well, till I started creating The Abbey website. I am now forced to say something happened so many years before Farthing was born, which is not the best solution. Oh, well. Back to my lists.

16:28

What am I going to have for dinner?

I fancy having some fish. Planning dinner is much like planning a novel, but it is more fulfilling. Well, the result is. I might get an immense satisfaction from writing, but it doesn't prevent me from getting hungry.

Actually, sod the theory, I will go for take-out.

18:30

At some point, I need to work on series two, book three, so I am reading back the first book of series two, having more or less drilled grooves into my graphics tablet in frustration over dragon bellies (drawing them, not ordering them for take-out.)

I read aloud when I read back and will sometimes flounce around the room while I do so waving my hands in the air dramatically as if rehearsing a play. Well, in some ways, books are plays or, at least, have moments when they resemble plays, especially during long sections of dialogue, and need to work as well as a crafted bit of Stoppard. 

20:00

Onto second glass of wine after eating fairly crap take-out (teach me not to cook) and am currently rewriting the opening dream-sequence of S2, B3. Now, I do not ususally write dream sequences and this is not one of those all important ones, but I wanted my character to be woken up from a place of sweetness and light to be plunged into hell. Also allowed a happy moment.

I try and get a lot of these in. Years ago I was part of a crew interviewing several UK, US and German soldiers who had been in the trenches in WW1. What stood out most was all the silly stories. Of course, these probably were edited out by the producers determined to keep things dark and foreboding, but it is easy to forget that even in the wettest trenches, those that served also told jokes, took the piss out of their captains and compared stories of the last girl they had kissed. They did not survive by some stupid idea of grim determination, they survived by keeping their humour alive and kicking.  Much braver that. Don't believe me? Go read old copies of the Wipers Times.

So, I make sure there are good helpings of stupidity, quick humour and lightness, even in the battle scenes.

Just ordered new crumb-free keyboard from Amazon.

22:10

I am sure they are making wine bottles smaller these days. That one didn't even make it through the evening.

This is my time for winding down. I reckon 12 hours or so at the Pen-Face is long enough and I like to have something meaningless in my life. So, log off, switch off and then go and watch some on-demand TV to get my own stories out of my head. House was fabulous for this. It has so little commonality with my story and characters that it was a complete departure from the day job.  I watched all of those and am now trying to find something as good. 

The problem with fantasy is that it isn't, you see. Half my characters might have wings, but they are still people and even if I make them really odd, they are still recognisable. They just don't catch the bus to work in the morning.

By that argument, every work of fiction ever written is a work of fantasy.

What will I do tomorrow? Well, get up a little earlier to start with - I mean, I have to write this blog post before I get on with writing everything else!

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Dirt series 1 and 2

Series One & Two are out now!

Start series one with Dirt for Free, and start reading the brand new series two with Girls of Dirt for only 99p!

Girls of Dirt includes a recap of series one.

Get it now at the Dirt website

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